In response to Credit Suisse’s decision to fire Neil Barofsky, a former federal prosecutor and Ira Forman, former US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, from investigating the bank’s ties to Nazi officials, World Jewish Congress (WJC) executive vice president Maram Stern urged the bank to reinstate the two.
“We call on Credit Suisse to immediately reinstate Mr. Barofsky and Mr. Forman and to give them its full cooperation in completing their assigned task. Anything less will put the bank’s good faith into question,” Stern said in a statement on behalf of WJC.
A committee of US lawmakers last week said troubled Swiss bank Credit Suisse Group hampered a multiyear investigation into the servicing of Nazi clients and Nazi-linked accounts. Credit Suisse commissioned an investigation into allegations levied by a human rights organization that the bank held potential Nazi-linked accounts and failed to disclose them, even during Holocaust-related probes decades earlier.
Senate committee found Credit Suisse hindered probe
A Senate committee's recent investigation into the matter found the bank hindered the probe and "inexplicably terminated" an independent reviewer overseeing it. The "information we've obtained shows the bank established an unnecessarily rigid and narrow scope, and refused to follow new leads uncovered during the course of the review," Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, said in a statement on Monday.
Stern continued by saying that “the WJC is troubled by Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse’s firing of Neil Barofsky and Ira Forman, who had been retained by the bank as independent ombudsperson and independent adviser, respectively. Both were tasked with investigating allegations that Credit Suisse had previously undisclosed ties with German Nazi officials and had serviced accounts held or controlled by such persons.
“Given the Swiss bank’s repeated assurances over the past several decades that it was committed to full transparency in regard to its activities during and after World War II and the Holocaust, we are deeply disappointed that Credit Suisse abruptly fired these two highly respected individuals, who had worked to create a comprehensive report detailing the bank’s shortcomings,” Stern said.
Jewish organizations have long claimed that in addition to playing a key role in financially supporting Nazi Germany, Credit Suisse has held onto money looted from Jews long after the war. In 1999, the Swiss bank paid Jewish groups and Holocaust survivors a settlement of $1.25 billion in restitution for withholding money from Jews who had tried to withdraw their funds. In 2020, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, an antisemitism watchdog named after a famed Nazi hunter, reported that an Argentine investigator had found evidence that thousands of Nazis who fled to Argentina had kept accounts at Credit Suisse for decades, some with looted funds. The bank then opened an internal investigation.
Switzerland had long claimed full neutrality during World War II, but the 1990s investigations into banks and other wartime financial dealings with Nazi Germany shattered that reputation. The country’s financial system, it was revealed, had laundered gold and other stolen goods through the war and resisted pushes in its immediate aftermath to pay restitution to Jewish victims of the Nazis.